Democrats to unveil sweeping US police reform plan: Live updates

Proposal is expected to ban police chokeholds, racial profiling, require nationwide use of body cameras, and more.

outside & mega image - US protests blog - Police reform
  • US congressional Democrats plan to unveil sweeping package of legislation to combat police violence and racial injustice, after two weeks of protests across the nation sparked by George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody.
  • The Minneapolis city council has said it wants to disband the city’s police department, after days of protests over the killing Floyd, who died after a city police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes on May 25. 
  • US President Donald Trump has ordered the withdrawal of National Guard troops from the streets of Washington, DC. 

Monday, June 8:

12:50 GMT – PM Johnson would not agree that Britain is a racist country, says his spokesman

Prime Minister Boris Johnson would not agree that Britain is a racist country but acknowledges there is still more to do to combat cases of discrimination and racism, his spokesman said.

“The PM doesn’t doubt that there continues to be discrimination and racism but would not agree that this is a racist country. We have made very significant progress on this issue but there remains more to do,” the spokesman told reporters.

“The PM is absolutely committed to continuing efforts to stamp out racism and discrimination.” 

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson
 Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he ‘heard’ the messages from those protesting after the killing of Floyd [File:Reuters]

12:38 GMT – George Floyd’s family calls for UN intervention in case

George Floyd’s family has appealed to the United Nations to intervene in his case and to send recommendations for systemic police reform in the US, CNN reported.

According to a press release, a June 3 letter to the UN Working Group on the Rights of People of African Descent, the family urged the UN to investigate Floyd’s death.

It also encouraged the US government to press federal criminal charges against the officers involved, and make reforms including de-escalating techniques, independent prosecutions and autopsies for every police killing, reported CNN.

Protests in Washington after the death of George Floyd
In a June 3 letter to the UN Working Group on the Rights of People of African Descent, George Floyd’s family urged the UN to investigate his death [File: Lucas Jackson/Reuters]

12:29 GMT – ‘Defund the police’: What the protest chant means

Protesters are pushing to “defund the police” over the death of George Floyd and other Black Americans killed by law enforcement.

Their chant has become a rallying cry – but what does “defund the police” mean? The answer is not necessarily about gutting police department budgets.

Read more here.

New York City
Demonstrators holding a Black Lives Matter banner during a protest at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn, New York City [Eduardo Munoz/Reuters]

12:03 GMT – New York Times op-ed editor resigns amid backlash over column

The editorial page head of the New York Times has resigned after his decision to publish an op-ed – by a US senator who called for military force against anti-racism protesters – drew online fury and criticism from many of the paper’s staffers.

James Bennet, the editorial page editor since May 2016, faced intense backlash after initially defending the column headlined Send in The Military by Republican US Senator Tom Cotton.

Read more here.

James Bennet

11:42 GMT – Congressional Democrats to unveil sweeping US police reform proposal after Floyd death

US congressional Democrats plan to unveil a sweeping package of legislation to combat police violence and racial injustice, after two weeks of protests across the nation sparked by George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody.

The proposal is expected to ban police chokeholds and racial profiling, require nationwide use of body cameras, subject police to civilian review boards and abolish the legal doctrine known as qualified immunity, which protects police from civil litigation, according to congressional sources.

“It is time for police culture in many departments to change,” Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Representative Karen Bass, told CNN on Sunday.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Kamala Harris along with Bass are expected to discuss the bill at a 10:30 a.m. ET (1430 GMT) briefing.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi wears a mask in Washington
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is expected to discuss the bill at a 10:30 a.m. ET (1430 GMT) briefing[File: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

11:06 GMT – ABBA’s Bjorn speaks out in support of Black Lives Matter protests

“The world is full of idiots,” said ABBA’s Bjorn Ulvaeus, as he condemned critics of the Black Lives Matter movement and voiced his support of the worldwide protests against racism and police brutality.

“The solidarity that we see in the streets of the cities around the world now should give us hope,” the musician said in a phone-recorded video given to Reuters..

The musician condemned those without “the imagination or will to put themselves in the place of a coloured woman or man”, adding that he believes such people to be in the minority.

Musician Bjorn Ulvaeus of Swedish pop group ABBA poses for a picture in Stockholm
Musician Bjorn Ulvaeus of Swedish pop group ABBA voiced his support of the worldwide protests against racism and police brutality [File: Ilze Filks/Reuters]

10:35 GMT – Ex-police officer who pressed knee on Floyd’s neck to appear in court 

Former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin, who pressed his knee on George Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as the man begged for his life, will make his first court appearance Monday afternoon, CNN reported.

Chauvin was arrested last month and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Prosecutors also added a second-degree murder charge.

The other three officers involved in Floyd’s death – Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao – were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.

Former Minneapolis police officers pose for booking photographs in Minneapolis
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was arrested last month and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter [File: Reuters]

10:02 GMT – Felling of British slave trader statue heats up simmering debate

The toppling by anti-racism protesters of a statue of a slave trader Edward Colston in the English port city of Bristol has given new urgency to a debate about how Britain should confront some of the darkest chapters of its history.

Statues of figures from Britain’s imperialist past have in recent years become the subject of controversies between those who argue that such monuments merely reflect history and those who say they glorify racism.

Many people criticised the government for its reactions to the incident.

UK interior minister Priti Patel called the felling of the statue an “utterly disgraceful” distraction from the protesters’ cause, while policing minister Kit Malthouse denounced “mobs just turning up and deciding to do whatever they like”.

Protesters tear down a statue of Edward Colston during a protest against racial inequality in Bristol, Britain June 7, 2020 in this screen grab obtained from a social media video. Mohiudin Malik/via R
Protesters tearing down a statue of Edward Colston during a protest against racial inequality in Bristol [Mohiudin Malik/Reuters]

09:11 GMT – Retired US navy captain uses racial slurs streamed on Facebook

A retired US Navy captain used derogatory language and racial slurs during a conversation with his wife that was accidentally live streamed on Facebook, reported CNN.

Scott Bethmann said he was “mortified” after the leak and was working to be a better person and resigned from the US Naval Academy Alumni Association board after the incident, according to a statement from the alumni association and a family spokesperson.

Bethmann and his wife Nancy were live on Facebook for more than 30 minutes, discussing recent events around the country, according to audio obtained by CNN affiliate WJXT. 

08:03 GMT – French minister denounces violence against protesters, journalists 

Violence against peaceful protesters and journalists is unacceptable, whether in the United States or elsewhere, France’s foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a newspaper interview published.

Asked about protests and rioting that have swept across US cities since the death of unarmed black man George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis, Le Drian told Le Telegramme that it was necessary to let people demonstrate freely.

“Any act of violence committed against peaceful protesters or journalists is unacceptable, in the United States or elsewhere,” he told the Brittany regional newspaper.

French government attend the weekly cabinet meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris
French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian tells newspaper Le Telegramme that it is necessary to let people demonstrate freely  [File: Ludovic Marin/Reuters]

07:56 GMT – National Guard troops begin pull-out from California cities

National Guard troops will be pulled out of California cities where they’ve been deployed for a week of protests over the death of George Floyd, officials announced.

The announcement came as peaceful demonstrations again popped up across the state, including one on horseback and another on wheels, as protesters continue to call for police reforms.

“After nearly a week assisting civil authorities on the streets of California, soldiers with the California National Guard will begin transitioning back to their home armories,” the Cal Guard said in a statement. A timeline for the pullout was not provided.

07:33 GMT – Romney becomes first known Republican senator to march in protest

Mitt Romney marched in a protest against police mistreatment of minorities in the nation’s capital, making him the first known Republican senator to do so.

Romney, who represents Utah, posted a tweet showing him wearing a mask as he walked with Black Lives Matter protesters in Washington. Above the photo he wrote: Black Lives Matter.

Romney, who was walking with a Christian group, told NBC News that he needed to be there.

“We need a voice against racism, we need many voices against racism and against brutality,” he said.

07:16 GMT – Artists paint ‘End Racism Now’ on street in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina

Artists painted the words “End Racism Now” on a downtown street, the Raleigh News & Observer reported.

Charman Driver, former chair of the Contemporary Art Museum on Martin Street, where the painting is located, called it “a very painful totem.” The street leads to Confederate monuments on State Capitol grounds, which have been spotlighted as offensive during protests.

The painting was applied when a city engineer met the artists and brought barricades to block off the street.

“We did it. And it’s wonderful. And we feel really good about it. Our voices are being heard, but it’s not enough,” Driver said.

06:59 GMT – Seattle mayor, police chief criticised for police use of flash bangs, pepper spray

Seattle City Council members sharply criticised Mayor Jenny Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best after police used flash bang devices and pepper spray to disperse protesters a day after Durkan and Best said they were trying to de-escalate tensions.

Authorities said rocks, bottles and explosives were thrown at officers in the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood Saturday night. Police said via Twitter that several officers were injured by “improvised explosives.”

The mayhem in the Capitol Hill neighborhood came on the ninth consecutive day of George Floyd protests in the city. It followed a large, peaceful demonstration earlier.

06:40 GMT – Man drives at protesters in Seattle, shoots one

Authorities say a man drove a car at George Floyd protesters in Seattle Sunday night, hit a barricade then exited the vehicle brandishing a pistol.

At least one person was injured. The Seattle Fire Department said the victim was a 27-year-old male who was shot and taken to a hospital in stable condition.

Video taken by a reporter for The Seattle Times showed part of the scene in the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, where demonstrators have gathered for days near a police precinct. 

03:45 GMT (Monday): BTS fans match group’s $1m donation to Black Lives Matter

Fans of BTS have matched the hugely popular South Korean boy band’s $1 million donation to Black Lives Matter after a social media campaign around the hashtag MatchAMillion.

Fans, known by the acronym ARMY (Adorable Representation MC for Youth) had given $1,007,518 as of 9:47am (00:47 GMT) on Monday, according One In An Army (OIAA) which runs fan donation campaigns.

“We’re so proud that ARMY have once again channelled their power for good and are making a real impact in the fight against anti-black racism,” OIAA said in a statement.

“We stand in solidarity with black ARMY. They’re an important part of our family. And we stand with black people everywhere. Your voices deserve to be heard.” 

02:01 GMT (Monday): Curfews lift, police show less force amid peaceful protests

With New York City poised to reopen after a more than two-month coronavirus shutdown, officials lifted a curfew that was in place amid protests of police brutality and racial injustice. But they also urged that demonstrators be tested for COVID-19.

“Get a test. Get a test,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told people who have been participating in rallies and marches in memory of George Floyd. “I would act as if you were exposed, and I would tell people you are interacting with, assume I am positive for the virus.”

Cuomo said the state would open 15 testing sites dedicated to protesters so they can get results quickly. His call for demonstrators to proceed carefully is similar to those made in Seattle, San Francisco and Atlanta following massive demonstrations, with free testing for protesters.

00:15 GMT (Monday): Minneapolis city councillors back plan to disband police

A majority of councillors in Minneapolis have told a rally in the city that they want to break up the city’s police department.

“It is clear that our system of policing is not keeping our communities safe,” said Lisa Bender, the council president who was among nine of the council’s 12 members who took part in the rally. “Our efforts at incremental reform have failed, period.” 

Bender said she and the other council members at the rally were committed to “end policing as we know it and recreate systems that actually keep us safe.”  Council member Jeremiah Ellison promied the council would “dismantle” the police department.

Sunday, June 7

20:50 GMT – UK anti-racism protests ‘subverted by thuggery’: PM Johnson

Anti-racism protests in Britain have been “subverted by thuggery”, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said, warning those responsible would be held to account.

Tens of thousands took to the streets of London on Sunday, rallying for a second day running to condemn police brutality after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. As numbers dwindled, some protesters tussled with police.

20:40 GMT – Washington protesters ask black Secret Service agent to ‘take a knee’

Peaceful protesters have gathered again near the White House in the 13consecutive day of protests in the country. 

In one instance, protesters implored a black US Secret Service officer to take a knee in solidarity with their demonstration against racism and brutality by law enforcement. 

“I appreciate all of this. … I’m still black. You see what I’m saying? You guys are still fighting for my rights,” the unidentified officer told the protesters through a fence outside the Treasury building in Washington, in an exchange captured by Reuters TV. 

“What I’m saying is, technically we just can’t do that,” he said.

Washington Protest
Demonstrators protest near the White House in Washington [Maya Alleruzzo/The Associated Press]

20:30 GMT – Virginia officer charged in use of stun gun on black man

A white Virginia police officer was charged with assault and battery in connection with the use of a stun gun on a black man, authorities have announced.

Fairfax County police Officer Tyler Timberlake was trying to get the man into an ambulance to go to a detox centre on Friday, according to body camera video shown at a news conference late Saturday.

Timberlake is seen striking the man with a stun gun and then getting on top of him, along with the officer wearing the body camera. Once Timberlake is on top of the man, he presses the stun gun into the back of his neck and fires again.

20:10 GMT – Scuffles break out in central London

Scuffles have broken out between police and protesters in central London by the arches that effectively connect the Foreign Office and the Treasury. 

Objects were thrown at police lining up at the three arches that bridges the connection just off Whitehall, which is also near the offices of Prime Minister Boris Johnson. 

Many of the demonstrators, who gathered earlier Sunday outside the US embassy just south of the River Thames, have moved towards central London, where clashes also took place Saturday.

london protest
Police clash with demonstrators in Whitehall during a Black Lives Matter protest in London [Dylan Martinez/Reuters]

19:50 GMT – Attorney General denies Lafayette Square was cleared for Trump photo shoot

US Attorney General William Barr has defended the clearing of mostly peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square on Monday, denying it was done for President Donald Trump to have a photo shoot in front of a local church.

Barr, in an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation” programme, insisted that, despite contradictory reports from many of those present, that protesters were “rowdy and non-compliant” and some had thrown projectiles, justifying the aggressive response. 

He said the clearing was meant to increase the perimeter around the White House and was unrelated to Trump’s photo session.

Donald Trump St. John Church
Donald Trump holds a Bible outside St. John’s Church across Lafayette Park [Patrick Semansky/the Associate Press]

19:20 GMT – Trump wanted to deploy 10,000 troops in Washington, DC, official says

US President Donald Trump told his advisors at one point this past week he wanted 10,000 troops to deploy to the Washington, DC area to halt civil unrest over the killing of a black man by Minneapolis police,a senior US official told Reuters news agency. 

The account of Trump’s demand during a heated Oval Office conversation on Monday shows how close the president may have come to fulfilling his threat to deploy active duty troops, despite opposition from Pentagon leadership.

At the meeting, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, and Attorney General William Barr recommended against such a deployment, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The meeting was “contentious,” the official added.

Anti-racism protests held across Europe

18:50 GMT – Serbian president gives Trump rare European support

Offering rare open support by a leader in Europe, Serbia’s president says US President Donald Trump faces “a serious and tough enemy” as he tries to quell massive protests over the violent death of George Floyd.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic told local Pancevo TV on Sunday, “I hope the US will come out of the crisis.” He also said he wishes Trump “the best of luck.”

Vucic, a populist and former ultra-nationalist, also addressed the release of Serbian soccer player Aleksandar Katai by the LA Galaxy soccer club after a series of social media posts by his wife in which she urged police to “kill” protesters and referred to protesters as “disgusting cattle.”

Vucic says the team’s decision “only speaks about the chase and chaos that has been conducted against President Trump.”

18:20 GMT – ‘You need to step in’: George Floyd police failed to intervene

Minneapolis was among several cities that had policies on the books requiring police officers to intervene to stop colleagues from using unreasonable force, but that could not save George Floyd.

Law enforcement experts say such rules will always run up against entrenched police culture and the fear of being ostracised and branded a “rat”.

Read more here

People gather in front of the St. Paul, Minn. governor's mansion on Saturday, June 6, 2020. Protests continue over the death of George Floyd who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police offic
Protesters call for police reform in the wake of the death of George Floyd who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers [Julio Cortez/AP]

17:50 GMT- Chicago lifts 9 PM curfew

Chicago has lifted its 9 PM curfew, according to a tweet by the city’s mayor. 

The curfew was put in place on June 1 as protests began to sweep the country. 

“The curfew is lifted effective immediately and going forward,” Mayor Lori Lightfood wrote. “I know this time in our city and our country has been difficult for us all, and I’m grateful to our residents for working together to navigate this challenging time.”

17:15 GMT – Officials urge Floyd protesters to get coronavirus tests

 As New York City prepared to reopen after a more than two-month coronavirus shutdown, officials lifted a curfew that was put in place amid protests of police brutality and racial injustice – and urged demonstrators get tested for COVID-19.

“Get a test. Get a test,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo urged.

He said the state planned to open 15 testing sites dedicated to protesters so they can get results quickly.

“I would act as if you were exposed, and I would tell people you are interacting with, assume I am positive for the virus,” Cuomo added.

16:40 GMT – Protesters in England throw slave trader statue into harbour

Anti-racism protesters in the southwestern England port city of Bristol have toppled the statue of a prominent slave trader and dumped it into the harbour.

Footage from local broadcaster ITV News West Country shows demonstrators attach ropes to the statue of Edward Colston before pulling it down on Sunday and eventually dumping it into the harbor. Images on social media show protesters appearing to kneel on the statue’s neck, recalling how a white Minneapolis police officer used his knee to pin down George Floyd’s neck before his death. 

Colston, who was born in 1636, has been a controversial figure in Bristol. Among efforts to “decolonise” the city have been calls to remove his name from its biggest music venue, Colston Hall.

16:10 GMT – Democratic US presidential candidate Joe Biden to meet Floyd family

Democratic US presidential candidate Joe Biden will travel to Houston and meet with the family of George Floyd, two weeks after Floyd’s death in police custody triggered nationwide protests over racial injustice, two senior aides said.

Biden is expected to offer his sympathies to Floyd’s relatives and record a video message for Floyd’s funeral service, which is taking place later in the day in Houston, the aides said. He is not expected to attend the service to avoid any disruption to mourners that could be caused by his Secret Service protective detail.

Floyd’s body arrived in Houston on Sunday, officials said. 

15:40 GMT – Protesters in Virginia topple Confederate statue

US demonstrators toppled a statue of Confederate General Williams Carter Wickham from its pedestal after a day of mostly peaceful demonstrations across Virginia on Saturday.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that most of the demonstrators had already dispersed when a rope was tied around the Confederate statue, which has stood since 1891 in Richmond’s Monroe Park. In 2017, some of Wickham’s descendants urged the city to remove the statue. 

Confederate monuments are a major flashpoint in Virginia and across the US.

A Moral Debt: The Legacy of Slavery in the USA – Al Jazeera Correspondent

15:15 GMT – Trump orders National Guard’s withdrawal from Washington

US President Donald Trump has ordered the withdrawal of National Guard troops from the streets of Washington after days of protests over the police killing of George Floyd.

“I have just given an order for our National Guard to start the process of withdrawing from Washington, DC, now that everything is under perfect control,” he tweeted.     

“They will be going home, but can quickly return, if needed. Far fewer protesters showed up last night than anticipated!”     

US peaceful protest opinion
A demonstrator stares at a National Guard soldier as protests continued over the death of George Floyd near the White House [Alex Brandon/The Associated Press]

14:30 GMT – Trump has drifted from constitution, former military chief warns     

Colin Powell, who served as America’s top military officer and top diplomat under Republican presidents, has said he will vote for Democrat Joe Biden, accusing Donald Trump of drifting from the US constitution.     

In a scathing indictment of Trump on CNN, Powell denounced the US president as a danger to democracy whose lies and insults have diminished America in the eyes of the world.     

“We have a constitution. We have to follow that constitution. And the president’s drifted away from it,” Powell said.

A former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Powell was the latest in a series of retired top military officers to publicly criticise Trump’s handling of the protests.

13:45 GMT – Protests continue across Europe

Thousands of people took to the streets of Barcelona, Madrid and Rome in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, which has drawn large protests against racism and police brutality around the world.

The rally in Rome’s sprawling People’s Square was noisy but peaceful, with the majority of protesters wearing masks to protect against coronavirus.

More demonstrations were being held Sunday across the United Kingdom, including one outside the US Embassy in London.

madrid protest
Protesters raise their fists at the Puerta del Sol square in Madrid, during a demonstration against racism and in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement [Gabriel Bouys/AFP]

13:15 GMT – Thailand holds Zoom protest 

Some 300 Thais and foreigners in Thailand and elsewhere joined an online protest against racism on Sunday, adding their voices to global calls for justice for Floyd.

With coronavirus restrictions, protesters with “I Can’t Breathe” messages on their arms and placards gathered on the video-meeting platform Zoom to emphasize the call in Thailand as they watched the video clip of Floyd’s last moments.

12:50 GMT – Dozens attend protest at US embassy in Hong Kong

A Black Lives Matter protest was cancelled due to coronavirus restrictions in Hong Kong, but a group of demonstrators showed up in front of US embassy on Sunday.

“It’s a global issue,” Quinland Anderson, a 28-year-old UK citizen living in Hong Kong who was at the protest told The Associated Press news agency.

Hong Kong resident and protester Max Percy, 24, said no human should have “suffered” as Floyd did.

Protesters gathered in a group of eight, which is in accordance with the limit of people who are allowed to meet under current coronavirus restrictions, and took turns to give speeches outside of the embassy.

12:25 GMT – New York: Curfew lifted early after peace protests

New York City is lifting its curfew spurred by protests against police brutality ahead of schedule, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Sunday morning.

The 8pm citywide curfew, New York’s first in decades, had been set to remain in effect through to at least Sunday, with the city planning to lift it at the same time it enters the first phase of reopening after more than two months of shutdowns because of the coronavirus.

“Yesterday and last night we saw the very best of our city,” de Blasio tweeted in his announcement of the curfew’s end “effective immediately”. “Tomorrow we take the first big step to restart.”

The move followed New York City police pulling back on enforcing the curfew on Saturday as thousands took to the streets and parks to protest police brutality, sparked by Floyd’s death.

See the updates from Saturday here.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies